Working Out On The Track
Working out on the track has many obvious benefits: it’s accurately measured, you don’t have to worry about traffic, and the footing is always perfect and trustworthy. For runners who ran in high school and college, the track is second nature for speed workouts, especially shorter intervals such as 400 and 800-meter repeats. But, doing workouts on the track can help even if you’re not a speed demon or doing short repeats.
1. Improve your pacing.
Pacing is one of the most critical skills a runner needs to learn but it’s also one of the most difficult to master. Even with a GPS device, it’s hard to get an accurate reading of what your current pace is, which leads to lots of speeding up and slowing down. Moreover, on hilly terrain, relating effort to pace is nearly impossible if you’re not experienced. The track can be a great place to hone your pacing skills.
For marathon and half-marathon runners, staying on pace the first few miles of the race can be difficult. Each second per mile that you’re faster than goal pace can lead to potential disaster over the final 10K. Try running a few of your marathon-paced tempo runs on the track during your training cycle. Admittedly, it can be boring, but the flat surface helps simulate that early race feeling when goal pace is a walk in the park. You’ll have to work hard to practice restraint and not run too fast. If you’re notorious for crashing and burning during long races, this is perfect practice.
Even better, if you’re a marathoner who struggles with taking in enough fluids or handling water cups during races, the track can be the perfect training ground. Set up a makeshift water stop and practice taking a cup from the table and drinking while running. You can try every few laps, which gives you multiple opportunities to practice and can even help with learning to run on a full stomach.
For new runners, getting immediate and consistent feedback is critical to improving your ability to execute a specific skill. On the track, you can easily and accurately measure your pace every 100, 200, 300 or 400 meters. Once you start to develop a sense for the effort needed to run a certain pace, there is nothing to distract you.
2. Stay focused.
Running countless laps around the track can be mind-numbingly boring. However, so can running marathon, especially late in the race or when the crowds thin out along the course. If you struggle with “zoning out” or staying focused during races, running on the track can help keep you in the present. The improvements in your concentration from the constant feedback every 400 meters will translate on race day and allow you to stay focused during those critical miles.